Tuesday night’s MLS Homegrown Game, presented by Energizer, was for many MLS fans the first chance to see Atlanta United’s Andrew Carleton in action. Carleton turned heads with an all-action performance, nearly getting on the scoresheet twice in 60 minutes of play against the Chivas U-20 team.
“It was a blast getting to be out there with guys I’ve grown up watching,” Carleton said.” “Just to be able to get some minutes out there was awesome, it was a fun game and I felt like I could have had a goal. Maybe on a different night.”
It was an impressive display, but the moment was also a time for the red, black and gold’s first ever Homegrown signing to reflect. He spoke to the league broadcasters in a live interview during the second half, opening up about a life-changing year.
“Playing on an expansion team the way that Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra have set it up is amazing,” he said. “To be on one of the better teams in the league, to be able to play with guys like Miguel Almirón, Josef Martinez, Michael Parkhurst and all these guys. To be able to learn from them day in and day out is honestly just a dream come true and a blessing.”
Playing with the pros every day has certainly accelerated Carleton’s development. But he singled out Miguel Almirón and Yamil Asad as his two biggest role models on the senior squad.
“They play similar positions to what I do,” Carleton said. “Yamil is a great player with great attacking awareness creating chance after chance for the team, and he has one of the biggest assist tallies in the league. And Miguel, for me, may be the MVP of the league so far this year.”
He’s grown close with his fellow Atlanta native and MLS Homegrown teammate Chris Goslin. Another young prospect playing with the senior team every week, as well as the U.S. Youth National squad, Carleton told fans to keep an eye out for Chris.
“Chris is a great all-around player,” Carleton said. He works hard, has a sweet right foot, he can play with both feet. He has great vision and is a versatile player that can play a lot of positions.”
Turning pro is just as much about developing off the field as it is about improving on it. Carleton says he’s learned a lot about how to take care of himself and take every advantage he can to turn into a top player.
“Definitely eating healthier day in day out, getting your sleep every night – nine, ten hours hopefully if you can,” he said. “Don’t be out late at night, just taking care of your body all around eating well, sleeping well, all those type of things.”
But like many fans, Andrew says what he’ll remember most from Atlanta United’s first season is the crowds, and particularly when he got to take the field in front of them.
“I’ll always remember my debut against the Houston Dynamo, just to be able to get into an MLS game was something I’ve grown up my whole life wanting to do. And to be able to do it in front of 46,000 people at home and play against DaMarcus Beasley who I’ve grown up watching. But the crowd in Atlanta is unbelievable. They’re the best fans in the league and they make all of us feel very warm and welcome. It’s a dream come true to be able to play in front of them every week.”
That now-famous Atlanta crowd has sold out every game so far, but there are still some tickets available to see the Five Stripes take on the New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 13th. Click here to make sure you’ve reserved your spot.